Eat/Wake/Sleep Routine (EWS or EASY)


Yeah. I'm finally doing this post. I think it will clear up a lot of the question I've gotten from some people since Eat/Wake/Sleep (EWS) is a common routine that
people use.


This routine or cycle also goes by the name of EASY which is an acronym The Baby Whisperer uses. It stands for eat/activity/sleep/you...you being you time during baby's sleep times-Yeah!

How do I do the EWS cycle?
It's pretty simple. Let's start off with the first thing in the morning (a consistent time, preferably). Baby wakes up and is hungry and EATS. Then baby has some ACTIVITY or WAKETIME. After some time, baby is tired and ready for SLEEP. Baby takes a nap and then wakes up and is hungry again so she EATS. And repeat. It's pretty simple. So why the heck is this post so long??

Additional tips on the EWS cycle
Eating times for newborns are usually somewhere between 15-45 minutes as long as baby isn't sleeping during the feed. Baby's are unique so you will have to figure out how long feedings normally take or how much baby is eating if you are breastfeeding. Keep in mind that feeding times shorten as babies get older and they also may lengthen every now and again during growth spurts.

Waketimes include feeding time and activity time. You can see some average waketimes for different ages on the waketime post.

If your child isn't a short nap taker (see below), then naps are usually around 1.5-2 hours long depending on the age of your baby, the time of day and your child's individual sleep needs. The last nap of the day is often a short one so the cycle may end up being E/W/S then waketime with a feeding right before bed (I like to feed right before bed but some people will do the feeding followed by waketime then bed).

You might want to keep a sleep and eating log when you are first starting this cycle. Some people suggest you always keep a log which isn't a bad idea (assuming you don't obsess over it), but there is no way I could keep at that long term. This log will help you figure out what waketimes seem to work the best, baby's eating habits etc.

How long is the EWS cycle?
Much of the time the EWS cycle for healthy newborns is between 2-3 hours. This is the case if baby is having long naps (see, nap lengths), taking full feeds and isn't sleeping during feeds. As your child gets older the cycle length increases. Most babies around 5-6 months of age go around 4 hours on this cycle with sometimes an extra feed or even two stuck in there somewhere. You will have to see what works for your baby and continually adjust things as her needs change. Remember to try to be consistent while being flexible at the same time.

Think of EWS as waketime (eating and activity) and sleep. Sleep length will probably not change tons at first but the waketime will so you will end up extending the cycle or routine as this happens. You will slowly move to longer cycles and eventually you will no longer have cycles. For more on this, see when to stop the cycle below.

The cycle length may decrease at times, like when your child is in a growth spurt or cluster feeding.

Any kind of combo with this cycle is fine. What I mean is, doing 3 hours followed by 2.5 then 3 again is fine. Most babies nap better at certain times and stay awake longer at other times.

When many people refer to the E/W/S cycle and how long they go between each cycles, they will just say how long their baby goes between feeds since a feed starts each cycle. So if they go 3 hours between feeds they are on a 3 hour long cycle.



What if my child takes short naps?
If long naps are not happening, you can look at the short naps post for tips. With newborns, if they wake after a short nap, leaving them for a few minutes or snuggling/rocking them for a few minutes will often help them fall back asleep and help you achieve a long nap. Doing this will help them get into a pattern of longer naps for the future.

If you cannot get long naps going, (which isn't uncommon) and you want to have feeds that aren't closer together than baby is requiring, then consider changing the cycle around to what fits your situation. People often end up with eat/wake/sleep/wake/sleep/eat/ or something along those lines. The point is to try to have something that is somewhat consistent and doesn't have baby feeding to sleep. And try not to stress yourself out! Some babies are simply short nappers for a while no matter what you do. There is no sense in fighting with the impossible. This routine is here to help you and your baby, not make matters more difficult.

Benefits of the EWS cycle
  • It helps create order and routine to you and your baby's day. You know what to expect and so does baby.
  • It helps newborns distinguish night from day.
  • In my opinion, it helps you better figure out when baby is hungry, sleepy, or has some other need.  
  • It helps you interpret your baby's cries. You know when your baby normally eats and sleeps and any cries around these times are probably cries that signal he is in need of these things. Most, if not all, of the time you won't even get to the cry stage. You know when your baby is normally hungry or sleepy and you anticipate these things. You put your baby to sleep before he gets to the overtired stage and you feed your baby before he is overly hungry. This is especially helpful for busy moms (or any one who has more than one child) who aren't able to watch for their baby's cues 24/7.
  • It helps reduce sleep props since you will be putting baby to sleep after activity rather than nursing or bottle feeding.
  • It helps baby go a reasonable amount of time between feeds by taking full feeds instead of snack feeds and by staying well rested.  In my experience it is harder for a baby to go much time without a feed when he is smelling and seeing his food source rather than when he is sleeping. It is also a lot harder for a tired and fussy baby to go very long between feeds.
  • When you have an idea of when baby eats and sleeps, I find it much easier to schedule in other things that need to be done like dinner and one on one time with other children.
  • A routine helps dad and other people more easily take care of your children. It makes a huge difference, especially with children who are sensitive to change. And having a routine in place helps keep things as normal as possible for your children when you are away or when you are in a different place.
  • One of the main reasons I suggest the eat/wake/sleep cycle is that it often makes sleep training a lot easier. It helps reduce the feeding to sleep that is a common sleep prop, it helps space out feeds and it helps parents evaluate and keep track of wake times so they can put their children to sleep before they are overtired.
  • From my own and others experience, EWS results in a very happy and alert baby. With this cycle, during all your child's play time he is well rested and well fed. With children, this is a perfect time to learn. Also, if you have seen a well rested and well fed baby, you know that they are very happy!

When do I start and stop the EWS cycle?
I suggest starting the cycle with newborns but you can start anytime with your young baby.

You pretty much stop the cycle when it doesn't make sense to do it any longer. Waketimes get longer and naps get further apart and giving a feed after each nap just doesn't make sense because it makes the feeds too far apart and it doesn't give baby enough feeds during the day. At this point you will fit in the feeds in whatever way makes the most sense (still avoiding feeding to sleep). Eventually you'll end up with a 3 meal a day routine with 1-2 snacks and probably a feed before bed. This change out of the EWS cycle usually happens around 6 months of age.

When you phase out of this cycle, some children will have a hard time getting used to not eating right when they wake up. One of my children had a bit of a hard time with this. I gave him a sippy of water upon waking for a several days then he was fine. When you baby is older and doesn't wake super hungry, you might want to consider waiting a few minutes after naps before feeding him so he doesn't get used to eating the second he wakes. 


Some "experts" or books that suggest this cycle:
  • Babywise suggests 2.5-3 hour EWS cycles for newborns (see pdf feedings). These cycles will extend closer to 4 hours apart as baby gets older. Once again, a combo routine is fine. Many people will drop the dreamfeed before extending out feeds (and therefore the e/w/s cycle) much more than 3 hours.
  • The Baby Whisperer suggests feedings around 3 hours apart for newborns and around 4 hours apart at 4 months of age. The dreamfeed is usually dropped after the feeds are extended.


Related Post:

35 comments :

  1. Hi Rachel,
    My ten month old still nurses to sleep most of the time and arches her back and cries if I try to get her drowsy by rocking her etc. Any tips on how to make the change to the EWS routine?

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    1. Kerry Jenkins,
      You can wean from nursing to sleep first then extend out the feeds then work on putting it in the ews pattern. Or go ahead and first work on extending out feeds then one they are extended do the ews routine and work on having her sleep without nursing then. I don't think there is really a best way to o it because it depends a lot on temperament and wht you feel you can handle doing at once. Just don't extend feeds out too quickly--give her some time to get used to them moving farther apart. Your going to have some protesting for sure. Look ver the leep training pists(including book reviews there) to see what method you want to use to hel drop the nursing to sleep sleep prop.

      Rachel

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  2. Hi Rachel,
    I have a 12 week old and I am trying to move to the EWS routine, but right now she nurses when she wakes up and before going down for a nap. I've tried skipping nurses before the nap, but I haven't been successful. I make sure she drains both breasts while nursing, but when I try to put her down or a nap without nursing she is absolutely miserable. She sucks on her tongue or her hand (that she always manages to get out of the swaddle). Do you have any ideas what I could do differently?

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    1. Kimberly Hawkins,
      She may need more time to get used to extending feedings more. Even if you give her a full feeding, if it hasn't been very long since her last feeding she won't take as much food as she'd take after, say 3 hours of no food. So she won't be able to last as long without food after the feed.

      Sounds like a prop issue too. She is used to going to sleep eating and wants to keep that up. Look over the sleep prop post and the sleep training posts to decide your next move/what method you prefer.

      Rachel

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  3. I totally LOVE this post! I just wrote a similar one on my experiences with the "EWS" cyle. You have so many great tips. Thanks for your wisdom!

    Jen
    The Birthing Lady

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    1. Glad you liked it Jen Breedlove!

      Rachel

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  4. I need help! My son is just over 2 months old and just this week I have decided to implement the EASY routine. A little background: Zachary has reflux (for which he is being treated) and is also a gassy baby. He is also exclusively breastfed. I cannot get this baby to cooperate! He wants to eat and then sleep no matter what I do and I can't get him to nap! I have to return to work in a few weeks and need a routine down pat. I have been able to do the dreamfeed and get him to sleep through the night but then he did this on his own without the dreamfeed a couple of times. This week has been very trying! The first day he woke up to eat at 7 so I got him up and started the EASY thing...he slept only 2 hours that day. The next day, he was so sleepy in the morning that it took an hour to feed. The third day we slept late (my fault, I was so tired) and I think his little belly hurt. He didn't want to nap and was awake from 9 am - 3 pm and finally passed out and slept for 3 hours. Getting him to sleep that night was terrible! He doesn't like to be swaddled and the routine as suggested in the book (the 4 S's) doesn't work with him. He wants to be rocked. There have been a couple of times I have put him down and he is able to put himself to sleep but it's hit or miss. I spent hours last night trying to get him to sleep!!! HOURS!!! I did everything by the book, finally just got him up and put him in his swing. I think he went to sleep at 10:30 pm. He went from 9 pm - 4 am without eating and without a dreamfeed, ate at 4 and then again at 7 am. For the 7 am feed I got him up and started the EASY routine again. Every day this week and all day long today, he acts tired and sleepy. I think he is chronically overtired and what has been called "colic" is really a baby whose parents can't read his cues. His sleepy cues are subtle but I usually notice the delayed blinking first off but he is always tired so it's a challenge to know when to put him down at the exact "right" moment. So here it is now, our 4th day...he has fought sleep all day, has slept a total of 2 hours in sporadic little naps; eating is erratic as well (he actually "fought" me earlier, crying at the breast, pulling off and not wanting to latch back on); his little eyes are tired, he rubs them, pulls at his ears and the ONLY way I got him to sleep was to rock him. Doing the shush-pat thing doesn't work, it distracts him. And like I said, he hates being swaddled most of the time. He will lay there and grunt and move around trying to pull his arms out and most of the time, he is successful. I do give a pacifier; he uses it but doesn't seem to be dependent on it to sleep as he will spit it out. I don't know what I am doing wrong!!! I am trying so hard and this is so exasperating. He was eating every 3 hours until the 3rd day into EASY and now it's just way off! I like the idea of EASY and I think it's helping me to read his cues better. I am contemplating an earlier bed time tonight to see if he can catch up on sleep on this end of the day. I will say his crying is less than before. HELP!!! I am ready to throw in the towel but I really think my problem is an overtired baby!!!

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    1. Hi Leah ..my 9 week old is the exact same way as your little one. Were you able to fight off his poor napping habits?

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  5. Hi Rachel,
    I have a 12 week old girl. We have been following the Eat Wake Sleep cycle since about week 2. She is breastfed and feeds pretty consistently every three hours. In the beginning she would wake up twice in the middle of the night for a feed and around 6 weeks she transitioned to waking up once during the night at about 3:30. She still wakes up every night at 3:30 for a feed. Do you have any suggestions as to how we can work to cut the middle of the night feed? Her last feed of the day is normally around 9:30 or 10:00 (when I go to bed) and her first feed is around 6:45 am, with a middle of the night feed at 3:30, give or take 30 minutes. Otherwise, she is a great sleeper.
    This trasition
    Thanks,
    Katie, Cody, and baby Adalyn.

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    1. Katie Earnest,
      Time will likely help a lot. Many babies at this age start to extend sleep even more. You can try to feed for less time ever few days, offer a pacifier instead of the feed or hold off the feed in another way to move it slowly later. Don't rush in to feed, you can try wake to sleep, and there are probably a couple things I didn't think of in the night waking post comments :) Glad to hear she is generally sleeping great for you!

      Rachel

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  6. Hi Rachel,

    Do you have any suggestions on how to get into this routine when our baby (5mo) does not usually want to eat when he first wakes up? He often wakes up too early so he can poop and then doesn't go back to sleep, so my husband takes him for a while and then he comes back about 1-1.5 hours later to nurse and sleep some more with me (we co-sleep but are starting to slowly transition to a crib for naps and the first part of the night). He still nurses very frequently day and night (every 2-3 hours) but he is small and not gaining very fast so I'm hesitant to mess with the feedings. I want to break the association so other people can put him to sleep too.

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    1. Chantelle,
      Are you trying to get into a routine, or just break the eat to sleep habit? If you want to do a routine, I'd work on getting feeds at least 3 hours apart right now. You'll want to monitor weight, but unless he has a health issue or you have some sort of milk supply issue, then he should be getting just as much food this far apart. Some babies will even have weight improvement not eating as often. You'll need to monitor it and slowly extend out. He has to get used to eating less frequently. He's used to some snacks in there and it makes him not so full so he gets hungry sooner and repeat. anyway, let me know your plans and what type of routine you are aiming for if you want one so I can help better.

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  7. Rachel,
    My daughter is 9 weeks old and kind of sort of on the EWS cycle, for the most part. The problem that I'm having is that she doesn't really seem hungry at 3 hours. I think 3.5 to 4 hours would be better, but I have no idea how to do that with her wake time being only an hour. She generally takes 2 hour naps, and when she wakes up she isn't really too hungry. I can usually get her to eat, but sometimes she will only take about 3 oz. If I try to just let her have her awake time when she wakes up then she is either hungry half way through or right when I would be trying to put her back down. If she's hungry half way through then I feed her and she takes so long to eat (usually about 30-45 min) that by the time I try to put her down again she's already overtired.

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    1. Melissa,
      If you can't get her to eat every 3 hours, then feel free to change the EWS up. The idea is to 1) not have baby eat to sleep 2) create some predictability to your day so you and baby know what to expect and so you are better able to tell what baby may need at one time or another. You can do some activity after a nap if that is what works. You'll just have to take into account how long it takes for her to eat and make sure to start the feed before then. Maybe even just 15 minutes after her nap she'll be ready for a feed.

      rachel

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  8. Hi Rachel,

    My 7 week old girl just don't want to sleep after wake time, she always wants to be fed to sleep, otherwise, she will just cry forever (seriously! until next feeding!). I don't know how to break the eat-activity-eat-sleep or simply eat-sleep pattern. She seems to already associated sleep with my nipple...I am in my last year of thesis and really need to get her to routine so that I can have some hours to finish my thesis, with her having to always be fed to sleep, I don't know if this could work...Am I starting sleep training too early? Should I start two-three weeks later? Should I still allow her to be fed to sleep meanwhile? If not, how can I put her to sleep? I try the four S but it doesn't work, she refuses to sleep after the routine (actually she crys starting the third S). I really need your help! Thank you!

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    1. Memoryofyou,
      I know I'm too late, but if I was in your situation, I would feed to sleep if she slept ok for now and then work on ST when she was a bit older and you weren't so busy with your thesis. You will have habits to break later, but it sounds like it is going to take a lot of work and time right now regardless, which you don't really much of :)

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  10. Hi Rachel,
    We have been doing EWS since week 3. My son is now almost 3 months old. He still seems to want to eat every 2.5 hours and, per EWS, takes a nap in between each meal which means he naps 5 times a day (for a total of about 4 hours of day time sleep). However, he is starting to take longer naps and we have read that he should only be taking 3 naps per day so we are thinking we should transition to fewer, longer naps. This also sounds appealing because it will give us a bit more freedom to get out! But...given that he eats every 2.5 hours and, according to EWS, he should nap between every meal, I'm not sure how to make this transition. Fortunately, thanks to doing EWS since week 3, he doesn't need to eat to get to sleep but I do appreciate having the routine and I do think he is accustomed to eating when he wakes. Any advice on how to make this transition?
    Thanks,
    Christy

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    1. Christy Satterfield,
      If you want naps to be longer (I'm not sure if you are waking and limiting naps or if she simply takes shorter naps) you'll have to either move feeds further apart or change up the ews routine. At 3 months, healthy babies generally do totally fine at eating every three hours. You can just gently and slowly extend them out a few minutes at a time each day. As feed are extended out, you'd have naps go until the next feed which would be longer. As far as if naps are short and you need to extend those out, look over the short nap post.

      rachel

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  11. Rachel,
    I just discovered this post at 3:25a after admitting to myself that I have a major problem! I have a 9 month baby who does not know how to put himself to sleep! I feel I created a monster since we didn't start introducing a crib until 2 weeks ago and is used to feeding/sleeping with me on our bed! He is consistent with his wake up(7a) & bedtime (8p) times but he 1) only takes 30-45 min,naps during the day, 2) can only sleep nursing and most of the time it's just for the sucking, not so much for the nursing, 3) wakes up every 2 hours at night crying for me to bring to bed and nurse 4) does not take a bottle or pacifiers. He eats solids and is at a healthy weight. He only nurses before his morning nap and his bedtime, with an occasional afternoon feed here and there, and at night because I'm so exhausted from hearing him cry when he wakes up! I said, he associates my nipple as his sleep tool. I don't believe in letting him cry it out and the crib is in our bedroom (no option there). Please help! He should be sleeping through the night!

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  12. Hi Rachel! This is a fantastic website - thank you for it. We have a nearly two week old and the 7am-10am-1pm-4,6,8 cluster-10:30pm feeds are working well. I'm a bit confused about how the night time feeds fit in at this stage. She fed in the night at 1:50am and 4:50am. My concern is she will try to drop the 7am feed. Do you have any advice? Thank you so

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  14. Hi Rachel - so sorry, the above post about the two week old and night time feeds was from me, Liz - I messed up the username bit! Thanks in advance for your help

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  16. Hi Rachel,

    We typically do 3 hour cycle, but my question is there any interference if we wait 30 minutes before feed after being awake? For example= wake, we'll play on belly and back for a bit because of reflux, feed, (wake) activity, then sleep. I wonder if its causing issues with 45 minutes intruder. Just trying to rule it all out. Wake time is 1.5. Thank you!

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    1. Diane,
      No problem not feeding right after waking up. The older baby gets the better baby will do with 3-4hrs between feeds. I can't tell you if baby is waking due to hunger, you'd have to trouble shoot that and see what happens.

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    2. Thanks for the reply. After trying to feed earlier... it seems i may have been able to give her a fuller feed than before. Also, I'm guessing I didn't give her enough time to fuss it out. She has learned quickly. Today we had a couple of naps after the 45 minute mark by implementing the two changes. Tonight, i set her down for bedtime awake... no fuss. just sleep. So we'll see how things go. This week we have a curve ball though. She goes to daycare and the room will not be dim. Hopefully she learns quickly to put herself to sleep for naps there. Any helpful tips with transition to day care would be most appreciated! I think putting her down awake has helped a ton.

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  17. To implement this routine...do we wake baby from their nap to maintain the 3 hour EWS?

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    1. Marsha,
      Yes, you do wake baby from a nap to maintain the 3 hour. But you can adjust it around a bit to fit your baby's natural rhythm best. For example, if she is more sleepy and naps better at one part of the day, you could do 3.5 hours then. I like to stick closer to 3 as baby is learning to figure out night and day, but after that the pattern and making sure baby gets enough daily food is most important.

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  18. I have a five month old and we've been using EWS since day 1 and it works great! He eats at 7, 10, 1, 4, 7 and 9 with naps right before all feeds except the last. He's wanting to have longer awake times now and also seems to want a longer morning nap. How do I transition? Do I feed less times a day? I don't want his bedtime to get later and don't want to disrupt his nice pattern of sleeping through the night!

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    1. Emily, you usually start to transition to a 3-4 hour routine.

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    2. If I transitioned to a 4 hour routine I'd feed at 7, 11, 3, 7 and 9 with the same number of naps but 5 feedings per day instead of 6. Is it better to cut out one feeding like this or keep 6 feedings and cut out one nap?

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  19. My 2 week old sleeps like a champ during the day, usually I have to wake him for his 3 hour feeding. He is exclusively breastfed (although I also pump and my husband usually gives him a middle of the night bottle). He doesn't have much awake time during the day and in fact I have to work at keeping him awake during feedings (rubbing his was, ticketing his feet). I don't know how to keep him awake during he day without making him fussy or cry. At night he' a mess waking 1.5/2 hours. We are working on the day/night confusion, keeping him in our dark quiet bedroom at night and the bright loud living room during the day. How do we start the EWS? And how can I fix his night time sleeping?

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  20. Don't expect much awake time during the day besides a feeding and diaper change. He's so little that the main thing that will help right now is just time. Do your best to help him sleep comfortably at night and it will improve in a bit

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  21. Hi Rachel, My LO is 5 weeks, and from day 1 I have tried to follow EWS. I'm encountering a few problems:
    - My lactation consultant had told me to feed LO every 2.5 hours during the day and let her go as long as she wants at night time. Right now our schedule looks like this: 7:30/8:00am wake, 11am, 1:30pm, 4:00pm, 6:30pm, 8:30pm, dream feed 11, 3:30 am. The problem im having is that no matter how much I wake her after her naps, she will constantly fall asleep on the boob and then if i put her down then she is wide awake, or when i try to burp her she becomes awake. Do you have any recommendation for waking her fully? I strip her, play with her a little, change her diaper, etc. If she gets sleepy during the feed I constantly pop her off. I'm just not sure what to do.
    - Also, do you think i should stick with 2.5 hours or can i transition to 3? She has been gaining weight extremely well and is currently almost 10lbs.
    Thank you!

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